1.1 Background of the Study
Science is a systematic study of the universe and natural process there (Kalu, 2017). No nation can afford to neglect science education at any level and hope to thrive in any field of human endeavour (Olatoye, 2017). The term Biology is derived from two Greek words “Bios” and “Logos” which means “life” and “study”, respectively (Adeogun, 2011). Biology is the study of living things (plants and animals). Biology engages the people to understand the world around them and so have the ability to make informed choices about their healthcare, the environment and the society in which they live (Ihejiamaizu and Ochui, 2016). It has become the central intellectual discipline especially in the aspect of biotechnology and indispensable in helping individuals to think more clearly about the values involves in the fast changing world.
Biology as a separate science was developed in the nineteenth century as scientists discovered that organisms shared fundamental characteristics (Arokoyu and Chukwu, 2017). Biology is a subject of instruction at schools and universities around the world and over a million papers are published annually in wide array of biology and medical journals (Christyl, 2011). Ambuno, Egunyomi and Osakwe, (2018) stated that Biology forms the basis of disciplines like human medicine, veterinary medicine, Nursing, Agriculture, forestry, fishery, pharmacy, food technology, laboratory science Technology, biological weapons and human nutrition to mention just a few. Most biological sciences are specialized disciplines. Traditionally, they are grouped by the type of organism being studied: botany (the study of plants); zoology (the study of animals); and microbiology (the study of microorganisms). The fields within biology are further divided based on the scale at which organisms are studied and the methods used to study them.
Biochemistry examines the fundamental chemistry of life;
Molecular biology studies the complex interactions of systems of biological molecules;
3.Cellular biology examines the basic building block of all life, the cell;
Physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of the tissues and organ systems of an organism; and
Ecology examines how various organisms and their environment interrelate (Adeniyi, 2014).
Biology is a very important part of everyday life, whether we realize it or not. Any advances in medicine, dealing with environmental issues, or biotechnology depend on an understanding of living organisms, great, medium, and small (Bichi 2013, Kalu and Ndokwo 2016). Even if our main goal is simply ensuring the survival of the human race, we still must be able to understand and sustain the biosphere. We poison our land, air and water. The greenhouse effect and global warming are both threats that concern our biosphere (Christyl 2011). According to Okeke, (2017), it would be utterly hopeless to try to sustain the diversity of life on earth in the future without a decent knowledge of biology. In order to maintain the delicate balance of life on earth, we first must understand that we are not alone on this planet. We need to learn about the effect we have on our environment and other living things. The value of many species cannot be predicted. Many plants may contain chemicals that could prove useful in treating illnesses, among other things. Also, the extinction of any specie can disturb the equilibrium of an ecosystem. Therefore, there is the need to understand that all of our actions have effects on other organisms and the environment (Christyl 2011).
Biological concepts (Physiology, Ecology, molecular biology, Biochemistry, Chemical biology) require more than one method or strategy to teach for effectiveness. For example, lecture method can be used alongside indoor laboratory teaching strategy in the teaching of physiology which examines the physical and chemical functions of the tissue and organ systems of an organism. The concept of ecology deals with the science of the interrelationship between organisms and their environment. The teaching and learning of this concept (Ecology) needs strategy that require direct observation of organisms in their natural surroundings, this strategy is called field trip. This field trip teaching strategy may help the students to use the process skills and study things in their natural environment. Field trip is an outdoor or field work or learning exercise undertaken by teachers and students in certain aspects of a subject to give students the opportunity to acquire knowledge. It may refer to as trips to various places to obtain information directly by seeing things as they really are (Obeka 2010).
In teaching biology at the senior secondary school level in Nigeria several methods have been employed for effective teaching of some concepts in biology. According to Sorrentino and Bell, (2017), some of the methods include; field trip, project, guided observation, experimental and discussion methods. The biology curriculum has been planned in such a way that the methods of teaching for every concept and content listed in the curriculum have been suggested. These methods are deemed to be the most appropriate for the contents that have been drawn. It is expected that teachers adhere to the suggested methods except otherwise established that the developmental changes and differences of the learners, environmental challenges and ability difference do not permit for total adherence. However, teachers do not seem to understand the relevance of using the methods that are most appropriate for selected contents and may not want to deliberately explore on different methods of teaching to discover the most appropriate and suitable for the selected contents and students in question. Rather, they go for methods they are most used to which may seemingly be cheaper in terms of cost and time.
The application of wrong teaching methods is suspected to direct negative bearing on academic performance particularly in biology; this has formed part of the problem in the teaching of biological concepts effectively in secondary schools. It is one thing to have good knowledge of a subject matter and quite another to impact same to another person. The academic performance of students cannot be effectively improved without the appropriate selection and application of these methods. All teaching methods are good. However, not all methods is suitable in the teaching of certain concepts in biology (Patrick 2010). Therefore, in the teaching of ecology the utilization of field trip may be apply in teaching the aspects of ecological management were the students may be taken out to study meteorological instrument in a particular meteorological garden. This will enable the students to study these instruments in their natural environment reducing abstraction. Similarly, project method may be crucial in teaching the concepts also as the students may be asked to design these instruments by themselves under the guidance of the teacher. It is therefore, presumed that the utilization of these methods of teaching may encourages students’ participation and allow for the connection of school work with the immediate environment of the students making it practical and memorable for students. This made the present study to be necessary so as to provide statistical information on the effect of the utilization of these teaching methods on the academic performance of students in biology with particular reference to Essien Udim Local Government Area.
Field trip method of teaching is a method of teaching in which a visit by a class or group of students to a location outside the regular classroom, which is designed to allow the students to achieve specific behavioural objectives, which cannot be achieved as efficiently by other teaching methods. Field trip stimulates questions and ideas at the beginning or end of a lesson. Field trip also provides an experimental “text” for students to study and interrogate. Field trip, if properly planned, affords the students the opportunity to become actively engaged in observing, collecting, classifying studying relationships and manipulating objects. A field trip is one of the most enjoyable and exciting experience for students studying biology which has a lot to do with living organisms and their environment (Tete, 2017). In field trip method of teaching, the students and teachers observe people and machines, equipment and materials in industries, companies and offices to see for themselves, those things they have been taught and learned theoretically (Aliyu, 2018). Kristen, (2017) states that field trips can be an essential part of learning, if they are used properly. They provide a hand-on experience that cannot be completely duplicated in the classroom.
Klawe and Levenwson, (2012), stated that, field trip, when properly used can create enriching experiences that provide meaningful, long-lasting learning in the students. Field trips early provide the concrete, hands-on experiences that the learner need Kay (2018), also stated that field trips are an interactive and engaging method of learning in environment outside the classroom. Whether planning a zoo expedition with primary school pupils or ecology fields study research with secondary school students. Christopher (2010) outlines the benefit of field trip as bringing classroom study alive for students and help them remember and relate to what they have learned; providing rich resources that can rarely be approximated in the classroom; helping connect school to the world; providing new cultural contexts for literature and provoke questions; as well as stimulating and focusing class work by helping students synthesize information. Fred (2017) stated that biological science trip has long been recognized as a teaching strategy since it presents the concept being studied in its natural environment.
Project Method is a method of teaching in which students acquire and apply knowledge and skills to define and solve realistic problems using a process of extended inquiry. Project method is method of teaching that is base on the principle of learning by doing in relation to teacher guidance. Project method promotes learners involvement in the learning process (Olatoye, 2017). Project method can be apply in teaching the students by assigning specific task for the students who will then used their initiative under the guidance and direction of the teacher. For instance in teaching the concept of ecology, there is need for the students to be assigned different ecological instruments for them to design and study the working principles of these instruments. Project work is student-centered and driven by the needs to create an endpoint (Bell, 2014). However, it is the rout to achieving this end-point that makes project work so worthwhile. This route to the end-point brings opportunities for student to develop their confidence and independence and to work on a task which they have define for themselves (Samuel, 2013). Most teachers knowing the value of engaging challenging projects for students have planned project works in laboratory investigations and interdisciplinary activities that enrich students’ academic performance of students. Project method of teaching is a comprehensive approach to classroom teaching and learning that is designed to engage students in investigation of complex, authentic problems and carefully designed projective and tasks. The use of project method of teaching in classroom is possible after providing the information that is needed for the project. The classroom activities should be student-center, cooperative and interactive (Moursund, 2014). Project method of teaching enhances the quality of learning and leads to higher level of cognitive development through the students engagement with complex and novel problems (Blank, 2014). Students are exposed to wide range of skills and competencies such as collaboration, project planning, decision making and time management through project method in science teaching.
According to Helm and Katz, (2011) the project method is a medium of instruction which was introduced during the 18th century into the schools of architecture and engineering in Europe when graduating students had to apply the skills and knowledge they had learned in the course of their studies to problems they had to solve as practicians of their trade, for example, designing a monument, building a steam engine. Project method of teaching expanded into a philosophy of education with the view of developing child-centered strategies of teaching. Both approaches are used by teachers worldwide to this day. Unlike traditional education, proponents of the project method attempt to allow the student to solve problems with as little teacher direction as possible. The teacher is seen more as a facilitator than a deliverer of knowledge and information (Helm and Katz, 2011).
Students in a project method environment should be allowed to explore and experience their environment through their senses and, in a sense, direct their own learning by their individual interests. Very little is taught from textbooks and the emphasis is on experiential learning, rather than rote and memorization. A project method classroom focuses on democracy and collaboration to solve “purposeful” problems. Kilpatrick devised four classes of projects for his method: construction (such as writing a play), enjoyment (such as experiencing a concert), problem (for instance, discussing a complex social problem like poverty), and specific learning (learning of skills such as swimming) (Grubb, 2015).
Experience has shown that among the topics in biology, there exist some differences which influences the student’s understanding of the concepts and academic performance. Some students have problem with the comprehension of the working principles of some of the ecological instruments while others find the concepts simple based on the method of teaching employed in the teaching of the concept. Some students prefer learning when they are involved in the teaching and learning process through practical works. Similarly, some schools are located in the urban areas where these meteorological gardens may be seen by the students while some schools are located at the rural areas where these ecological gardens may not be found easily. Therefore, the utilization of field trip method may increase the students’ motivation in learning the concept of ecology which will reflects in their academic performance in biology. This background then motivated the researcher to ask whether the utilization of field trip and project methods could influence the academic performance of students in biology in school. In the quest to provide answer to this question, triggers the investigation into the effect of field trip and project teaching methods on the academic performance of students in biology in secondary schools in Essien Udim Local Government Area.